Eliza Bennet has the life she’s always dreamed of. She’s who she wants to be, and she’s with the man she loves. But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Myer. And Klaudia is on the run. She’s escaping her old life, and a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family.
This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia – one girl, two lives and a lie they cannot hide from. (Goodreads)
After finishing the excellent Redemption Road, I decided to dive into The Other Woman, assuming that it would be along similar lines. Though both share the common thread of a young woman trying to delve further into her family tree’s, that is where the similarities end. While Margret, the female lead in Redemption Road, has a rather warm upbringing, we quickly find out that Klaudia/Eliza’s childhood was less than ideal.
What I found really clever about this book was the fact that Sarginson builds up this idea that the book is about the dual life that Eliza/Klaudia has in order to compartmentalise her life. Yet, as you get further and further into the book you begin to see that nearly every person close to Eliza/Klaudia also has another side to them. They only show the part they want to, while burying deep secrets that have the power to destroy the lives of many. However, these secrets can’t stay buried, no matter how much the parties involved want and as Eliza/Klaudia uncovers the truth, it explains so much and confirms one of Eliza/Klaudia’s fears about her heritage.
What really made this book such an interesting read was the flashbacks to the Second World War, where we learn more about Eliza/Klaudia’s father and uncle. Each flashback seems to back up the suspicion that her father was involved in the atrocities carried out during the Second World War. His strictness and distance in the present seems to be explained by how he was during that time.
Though I found Eliza/Klaudia’s story really interesting, what really pulled me in was her father and uncles story. Here were two boys who had no idea of their heritage and really they both wanted to belong somewhere. Otto, Eliza/Klaudia’s father, seems to embrace the ideals of Hitler. You see many of the traits he has in later life begining to take root. Ernst, Otto’s brother, seems the more sympathetic and more likeable of the two brothers. Sarginson manages to show the human side to the men who fought during the war and how there were those men who were trying to survive. Did that excuse what happened? No, but it did make me question how fair life could be, especially when we find out what happened to Otto and Ernst later during the later stages of the war.
One of the “twists” in the tale, I predicted correctly and though it did cement Eliza/Klaudia’s fear about her father, it was bittersweet. You begin to understand why Otto acted the way he did, not just to Eliza/Klaudia, but also to his wife.
To balance the darkness that runs through the book, there is also this delicate love story between Eliza/Klaudia and Cosmo. Her secrets do mean that their relationship has many obstacles to overcome, but you root for them. It has all the signs of star-crossed lovers for every time Eliza/Klaudia is going to tell the truth, something springs up to force her to put it to the back burner. Yet, through it all they do get together, proving that through the darkest days, hope can spring eternal. It was a nice ending to the book.
I really couldn’t put The Other Me down as it is a great character driven book that shows how secrets, even with the best of intentions will come out in the end. Sarginson is a fantastic writer, who pulls the reader deep into the story that you become so emotionally attached to Eliza/Klaudia and Ernst. You feel for them and all the trials that they go through.
I can honestly say that I have not read a book quite like this an recommend anyone who is looking for a great morally complex story.